Week in Review

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President Trump issues executive orders on the Affordable Care Act and immigration, signs memoranda promoting the Keystone XL and Dakota Access pipelines, and more…

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  • President Donald Trump signed an executive order announcing that it is the Trump Administration’s policy to “seek the prompt repeal” of the Affordable Care Act (ACA). The order directs federal agencies to “exercise all authority and discretion available to them to waive, defer, grant exemptions from, or delay the implementation of any provision or requirement” of the ACA to “the maximum extent permitted by law.” The order could reportedly be used to curtail enforcement of specific provisions of the ACA, including the individual mandate.
  • During a visit to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, President Trump issued two executive orders that target immigration policy. One of the orders directs federal agencies to begin construction on a wall along the United States’ border with Mexico—building a wall along the Mexican border was a focal point of Trump’s presidential campaign. The other order tightens existing immigration policies by, among other things, directing federal agencies to “[e]nsure that jurisdictions that fail to comply with applicable Federal law”—so-called sanctuary cities—“do not receive Federal funds, except as mandated by law.”
  • President Trump signed presidential memoranda intended to promote the construction of the Keystone XL Pipeline and the Dakota Access Pipeline, two projects that have been the subject of protests by environmental groups, Native Americans, and others. One memorandum invites TransCanada—the company that had its permit to build a section of the Keystone XL pipeline across the Canadian border denied by the State Department in November 2015—to reapply for a permit and directs the Secretary of State to review the new application within 60 days of its submission. The other memorandum directs the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers—which denied an easement for the Dakota Access Pipeline in December 2016, pending completion of an Environmental Impact Statement—to expedite review of that pipeline.
  • President Trump issued a presidential memorandum officially ending the United States’ participation in negotiating the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a landmark trade deal with 11 nations in the Pacific Rim. The memorandum, which fulfilled one of Trump’s key campaign promises, was reportedly viewed as a largely symbolic move, as Congress was not expected to support the deal.
  • President Trump reinstated the so-called “global gag rule”—a policy instituted under President Ronald Reagan and which has been repealed by every Democratic president and reinstated by every Republican president since 1985—by issuing a memorandum which bars U.S. aid from being given to health providers in foreign countries who discuss abortion as a family planning method. President Trump’s memorandum reportedly appears to expand the policy, which in the past applied to only funding from U.S.A.I.D. and the U.S. Department of State, to all U.S. global aid.
  • President Trump issued a memorandum implementing a “freeze on the hiring of Federal civilian employees to be applied across the board in the executive branch.” The memorandum specifically exempts the military, and allows individual department and agency heads to exempt positions they determine are “necessary to meet national security or public safety responsibilities.” The memorandum requires that the Office of Management and Budget submit a “long-term plan to reduce the size of the Federal Government’s workforce through attrition” within 90 days, at which point the freeze will expire.
  • On the same day that Donald Trump was sworn in as the nation’s 45th President, California announced an ambitious plan “to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2030.” Mary D. Nichols, the Chair of the state’s Air Resources Board, stated that the plan will encourage green investment and create “good new jobs in the growing clean technology sector,” but President Trump’s nomination of Scott Pruitt to lead the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency reportedly leaves the fate of California’s plan unclear.
  • President Trump appointed Ajit Pai—formerly a Commissioner of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), and a critic of the net neutrality rules issued by the FCC under the Obama administration—to be the Chair of the FCC, an announcement reportedly welcomed by Republican members of Congress who oppose the net neutrality rules.


  • In a recent op-ed, Harvard Law School professor Cass R. Sunstein argues that the first 50 days of a presidency are crucial because the new administration “has maximal discretion to act entirely on its own” as the government is still coming together, but that momentum is likely to slow after only a few months. Drawing on experience serving in both the Reagan and Obama Administrations, Sunstein explains that as “the number of presidential appointees grows” and “the civil service starts to matter much more,” the policymaking process becomes “far more deliberative” as decisions require working with a much greater number of people within the Administration.
  • An American Action Forum (AAF) study authored by the organization’s Director of Regulatory Policy, Sam Batkins, lists the total regulatory burden imposed by the Obama Administration during the midnight period—the period between election day and President Trump’s inauguration—as $157 billion, including $41.2 billion from final rules. The total well exceeds Batkins’s 2016 estimate that the Obama Administration’s midnight regulatory push would impose $44 billion in costs.
  • In a Brookings discussion paper, Aparna Mathur of the American Enterprise Institute and Adele Morris of Brookings analyze potential linkages between a carbon tax and an expanded Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) which applied to childless workers, and whether the former could fund the latter. The paper finds that a carbon tax could create enough revenue to expand the EITC to childless workers without reducing benefits for those currently eligible for the EITC, creating “net benefits for on average for the lowest income deciles while improving incentives to work and providing environmental benefits.”